Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Wizard Behind the Curtain

I feel fortunate to be able to remember life before the Internet. I'll never know what life was like before the automobile, before television, before elevators, but I'll always have a little perspective that future generations won't have about today's technology.

I wrote a few weeks ago about the ability for some celebrities and public figures to be able to use the Web to connect directly to interested people without the traditional media as a filter. Even more interesting is when a public figure voluntarily denbunks the myth that they are somehow different than the rest of us, something I observed this week on an Internet message board community I frequent.

Peter David may not be a household name, but to the subculture of comic book and sci-fi fans, he is. He's written big name characters like the Incredible Hulk and Spider-Man. He's also written a bunch of sci-fi or fantasy novels, including Stark Trek novels. He was recently tapped to work with Stephen King on a comic series. He makes a living writing, which is something not many people can claim.

I read some of his stories when I was a kid. He seemed a world removed, and back then, he was. I suppose I could have written a letter to him, but it seems unlikely that any fan would have been able to keep up a regular correspondance with him. Very different today. He frequently stops by comic book message boards (as do many other comic writers and artists). I was a bit surprised by some of his early posts-- he seemed to be rather willing to criticize fans and was sometimes gruff and harsh. I know writers are human, but I was surprised in so public of a forum he was so willing to be blunt. This week though, he really went over the top. Somebody got their hands on a comic book that is due out tomorrow and posted spoilers. This made Peter David go nuts. What resulted was a long flame war with over 100 posts, David himself responsible for over a dozen of the posts.

Apparently, one of the posters and David had a bit of a history. Apparently, six years ago the poster tried to get David in trouble with the National Association of the Deaf for alleged insensitive portrayal of deaf people in a comic book. Six years later, Peter David actually brought the issue up himself and threw it in the guys' face, appropos of nothing. He then gave out his e-mail address and said he'd fill anyone in on the whole story.

I used to moderate a message board on a website for a radio station I worked for. I would have loved to call out jerk posters with personal insults, but representing my radio station, I knew I had to take the high ground. I find it hilarious that someone in such a high position, who could take the high ground if he wanted to, jumps into the mud pit with the fans and starts slinging.

In many ways it's still too early to judge the effect that the Internet has had on society. However, I think it has quickened a trend that started even before the digital age-- the wall between public figure and private person is being worn thin. I'm just waiting for Dick Cheney to jump on some political message boards and start calling people names.

1 Comments:

Blogger Jennifer said...

I was just having a conversation yesterday about my niece (who is 1 1/2.) That child and her whole generation will never know what it is like to not have cell phones. One day to her the mention of using a pay phone might be as funny as if you were to tell my generation to type a paper on a typewriter.

7:47 AM  

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